Be Better Than Fear

My last two posts were pretty bleak. I admit it. I don’t believe the world is ending just yet, but there are definitely signs of doom for democratic ideals.

The fear and loathing can’t be divorced from the current President, his administration and the mockery that is being made of fair governance. Basic human decency should be an occupational requirement. But it’s not.

Although actual progress on any part of the Trump agenda has been mercifully slow, change is very much in the air, dredging up fear on both sides of the aisle. It’s just being channeled and processed differently. On the left we’re seeing authoritarian activities we believed were ancient history once again in vogue – and we’re resisting. On the right…I honestly don’t know what we’re seeing. But the Party of No is gunning for women’s health, civil rights and immigration.

At the center of both reactions lies fear. For some conservatives, it’s fear of what America’s changing demographics look like, particularly in post-9/11 America. On the liberal left, there’s panic that we’ll never make it three and a half more years of Trump.

Fear drives ignorant, shortsighted behavior, such as a school teacher handing out a “Most Likely to be a Terrorist” certificate to a seventh grader (as a “joke”). In what universe is branding someone at the most turbulent stage of their life as a terrorist, funny? Or even remotely appropriate? It’s harassment, an attack on a child’s mental state, creating a hostile environment for the entire community. We can’t have the people entrusted with our kids damaging their mental health and creating a bullying culture from the top down.

That same fear of the “other” contributed to North Carolina’s racist voting district gerrymandering efforts. These moves placed large groups of African-Americans into the same few districts, concentrating their votes. In effect, gerrymanderers split representatives 10:3 in favor of traditional, white republican representation in areas where black voters skew democratic. This approach was struck down by the Supreme Court with the uncharacteristic support of Justice Clarence Thomas, rarely to be found on the “liberal” side of a case.

SCOTUS’ ruling in the North Carolina case is one of the few moments of clarity and bipartisan unity we’ve seen in recent months, an indication that black votes, voices and lives matter. There is hope to be found in the system of checks and balances, no matter how delayed.

There’s also reasons for optimism as courts across the country slap down Trump’s proposed travel ban time and time again. In fact, just this last weekend Following another terrorist attack in London, Prime Minister Theresa May called for action to restrict “the safe spaces it needs to breed.” Trump’s travel ban and May’s preference for a police state are responses of fear, because they do not understand the bigger picture.

The proposed ban exists to discriminate against six majority Islamic countries as a show of nationalism (not to be confused with patriotism). Somehow Trumpsters and their supporters fail to realize reducing all Muslims to terrorists is like conflating all Christians with the Westboro Baptist Church.

May, while having a legitimate cause for concern (this is the third attack on British soil within three months), is reacting to radical elements of Islam. She’s looking to penetrate so-called self-segregated communities and be “less delicate of their sensitivities.” It’s panic that targets civilians.

When we hear the word “terrorism,” it’s disturbing  to observe the automatic jump of many to Islam. We need to remember that terrorism isn’t a religion; it’s a tactic. A tactic founded upon bullying, sadism and sociopathic tendencies to control people through threats, intimidation and violent action.

Terrorism does not exist “over there.” Look no further than America and Breitbart’s hate-filled agenda, the constant stream of cultural ignorance (yes, those are different links) thrown at those who look or believe outside of hetero, Caucasian, Christian paradigms. Consider Betsy Devos’ anarchist, hands-off approach to education. Every day on the job, she’s developing a hostile experience for future generations.

There is a lot of negativity to weight us down at present, but we also need to look beyond our own fear. By doing so, we’ll learn how to advance together. By way of example, there’s the One Love Manchester concert benefiting victims of the second U.K. attack. There’s also the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling against gerrymandering, and the unprecedented number of women running for public office. There’s human decency and intelligence visible everywhere – if you know where to look. 

Allowing paralysis or backward movement under the weight of fear does no one any good. The ability to look forward is what will distinguish leaders matching the global, human challenges of these times.

Getting Human Rights Wrong

Last week, America’s foreign policy shifted in a startling way. Our nation went from home of the free and the brave, to a potential Airbnb stay for oppressive dictators. Donald Trump is courting foreign leaders who have been likened to Hannibal Lector, and is opening the floodgates to negative possibilities by meeting one of the world champs of human right’s violations.

To the uninformed, inviting Rodrigo Duterte to the White House doesn’t seem that extreme or worrisome – foreign leaders are called to Washington on a regular basis. It’s common, expected diplomatic behavior. That this head of state, specifically, was invited is alarming, because a quick Google search turns up a number of 7,000 civilians killed due to his war on drugs in the Philippines (as of March 2017). Other evidence of his disregard for human rights can be found in additional returned searches. Legal experts assert that if Duterte were not President of the Philippines, he wouldn’t be allowed into the U.S due to these violations. But these are not normal times. There are certain similarities between Duterte and Donald Trump. The current egoist occupying the Oval Office would apparently love the opportunity to speak to himself through a fun-house mirror.

Combine Trump’s curious condoning of Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, with the recent designation of Kim Jong-Un as a “Smart Cookie.” Add in his ongoing obsession with Russia’s Vladmir Putin, and we’re looking at a bleak future for human rights. This is a president easily swayed by flattery who quickly absorbs problematic ideas. He shouldn’t be left alone unsupervised. All three of these foreign powers (The Philippines, North Kora, Russia) sit high on the Human Rights Watch violations list, with regressive policies against free speech and mounting (state controlled and sponsored) paranoia of the west, specifically the United States.

The truly terrifying take away from a potential visit with Duterte isn’t what could happen in the future, should The Donald develop a strong relationship with the leader. The real horrors are the shades of dictatorial political systems and regimes that have already infiltrated America. There are more examples than space in this column to provide, but you don’t have to look far to see escalated aggression against any group defined as “other” (read: non-white, poor, homosexual, religion other than Christianity). The divisive rhetoric from world leaders such as Duterte, Putin, Jong-Un and Trump creates a muscled environment for hateful propaganda to flourish. It encourages divisive hostility, supporting an “us vs them” narrative (looking at you, Breitbart, with your glowing “special report” of the first 100 Days of the Trump disaster) that  supporters embrace.

Mr. Trump signed an executive order (his 35th in just over 100 days in office- this list summarizes the first 29 and six more have been produced since) promoting “religious freedom,” which allows tax-exempt churches to advocate for and endorse political entities. This is another dangerous muddling of the lines between separation of church and state (The Constitution only mentions Congress in Amendment I). Many readers (myself included) interpret this as a blank check, allowing Indianans to refuse to bake me a cake if I decide to tie the knot. We all know how that turns out.

That’s just one tame example of authoritarian, dogmatic creepage. But right now, we have a President who’s achieved his definition of “winning” almost entirely through executive orders. He’s resentful of the press (no-showing at the Annual Correspondents Dinner) and prefers to create “alternative facts” while decrying reason and established journalism as “fake news.” We’re looking at the early stages of a dictatorship with a self-generating propaganda machine. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the arrest for laughing during confirmed racist’s Jeff Session’s Confirmation Hearing,  the same week that Alton Sterling’s highly publicized death resulted in no charges for the officers who shot him.

While all of these are technically separate events and occurrences, together they point to a narrowing notion of freedom in America – one where racism is rewarded, undue aggression is allowed a free pass if the victim isn’t a cisgendered white male, specific religious beliefs Trump (pun intended) others, and unrepentant murderers receive invites to the White House. The closing window of life and liberty also expanded last week to shut out the poor and unlucky further. The House passed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, expanding the definition of pre-existing conditions to absurdly discriminatory levels (pregnancy is now apparently a pre-existing condition, whereas erectile dysfunction is not).

Detractors might say that coddling up to a man like Duterte could help promote a growing relationship with China. An increasingly hostile North Korea faced together and all that. I’m going to go however with a less is more approach. Given their records, Duterte and Trump should never be in a room together. America can’t risk it.

2016’s Biggest Electoral Casualty: The Media’s Integrity

fema_-_2720_-_photograph_by_fema_news_photo

“Lies, fear mongering and discreditable boasting right out of the gate. And the media let him get away with it, treating Trump as the serious candidate he never was because man, the story was just too good. He’d never actually secure the Republican nomination, right? There would be plenty of time to course correct and cover the campaign with the gravitas that deciding upon the next Leader of the Free World deserves.

Except that never happened. And mainstream “journalism” has showed itself to be more than a recorder of events over the last 14 months. The industry has flat-out enabled, and in many cases, encouraged, a permanent blight on our political history.”

Read the full post for Contemptor.

Obama Says What Clinton Can’t And The Media Won’t

obama

“Hillary Clinton has to be so careful with everything she says, every look that she gives, it’s quite a marvel she’s avoided agoraphobia over three decades of public service. The pressure and double standards would cause others to crack. But Hillary is nothing if not a fighter and she also has a not-so-secret weapon in her arsenal: POTUS.

In the final weeks before November 8, Team Clinton has vowed to focus on positive messages, pivoting away from haranguing Trump – however deserved. But as she recovered at home from pneumonia this week, Barack Obama had no problem stepping up in her absence. He’s been forcefully critical of Trump throughout campaign season. Earlier this week he reminded America of exactly why he won two terms and continues to enjoy high approval ratings.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Hillary Clinton’s Patriotic Ride Reinforces DNC 2016’s Savvy, Inclusive Message

clinton001

“I never understood why the left let most of the 2000s and a good part of this decade pass playing defense. As if somehow wanting a country that works for all instead of carrying the water pail for the one percent, while indulging the cultural wars of the religious right, was heretical and un-American. The purveyors of the Iraq War (Part 2), who passed unprecedented, unaffordable tax cuts and made a Constitutional Amendment against gay marriage a centerpiece of the party platform mystifyingly won the PR battle for which movement represented “real Americans.”

Democrats should not have needed the Trump phenomenon to help them articulate a vision for the country that also conveys love for it. After all the party’s planks, even before Bernie Sanders helped pushed them farther left, are about creating equal opportunity and freedom for all – not just rich, white, cisgendered males. And liberals shouldn’t have required the impetus of an ominous, fearful and whitewashed RNC 2016 to point out that say, the GOP might not speak to who and what we are after all. But better late than never I suppose.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Mr. Congeniality: Is Tim Kaine for Real?

time-kaine-cnn

“Kaine’s anomalous popularity with conservatives can’t help but function as a 2016 asset. Last week’s Democratic National Convention, with all of its flag-waving patriotism, was in part a clear play for disaffected Republicans who can’t stomach pulling the Trump lever in November. Hillary Clinton’s semi-hawkish foreign policy positions were already a carrot. With Mr. Nice Guy on the ticket, the strategy may prove that much more effective.

One of Senator Kaine’s other surface selling points is his fluency in the Spanish language. Hillary’s electoral opponent, Donald Trump, is a man who’s publicly recorded a low opinion of Latino immigrants as follows, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Not hurling scandalous slurs at nearly 20 percent of the total American population probably gives Clinton an advantage amongst these voters. Kaine’s linguistics could, on paper, yield the TKO.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

DNC 2016: Bernie Bros Prove Misogyny Is A Bipartisan Effort

2016-2016-adam-Bernie-booed

“Yes. The Bernie Bros and their relentless bullshit partially marred a historic and inspiring week. Male privilege interrupted the unadulterated joy of so many women who never believed this moment possible. To watch 102 year-old Arizona delegate Jerry Emmett euphorically report her state’s votes for Hillary Clinton is to understand the impact of the candidate’s accomplishment on female Americans. It should have shut the naysayers up for a bit.

On Tuesday afternoon, after Bernie Sanders’ brother Larry delivered an emotional tribute to his sibling’s 2016 primary success, Bernie finally stepped up to the unification plate. He acquitted himself well with a motion to transfer all delegates to Clinton. It was a satisfying conclusion to what had become a party damaging refusal to acknowledge defeat. Democrats could finally make a united pivot toward keeping Trump from the White House. Or so I thought.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.